Sunday, December 13th, 2009
His Tremendousness Prince Giorgio I of Seborga has left this mortal coil, and it is very much the poorer for his absence. Born a mimosa flower farmer, son of a mimosa flower farmer, in the tiny Italian Riviera cliffside town of Seborga, Prince Giorgio singlehandedly convinced the locals to elect him prince in 1963.
Seborga had been independent principality a thousand years before, you see, when the Holy Roman Emperor granted the abbots of the Cistercian monastery the fiefdom and title. It remained independent until it was sold to the House of Savoy in 1729 and absorbed into its kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont.
There was a hitch, however. Giorgio Carbone researched assiduously and found that the purchase of Seborga was never officially registered, nor was the principality mentioned in subsequent territorial treaties like the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 which restored the nearby Republic of Genoa, or the 1815 Congress of Vienna which apportioned the spoils after Napoleon’s defeat. It didn’t make the act of unification of Italy in 1861, or even a mere footnote in the formation of the Italian republic after the abdication of the last Savoy king, Victor Emanuel II, in 1946.
Armed with all this absence of evidence/evidence of absence, Giorgo took it to the people, all 308 of them.
After convincing his Seborgan neighbors of their true significance, Giorgio Carbone was elected prince in 1963. He gracefully accepted the informal title of His Tremendousness, and was elected prince for life in 1995 by a vote of 304 to 4. Voters then ratified Seborga’s independence, which, by the prince’s interpretation, it already had.
Prince Giorgio established a palace, wrote a Constitution, and set up a cabinet and a parliament. He chose a coat of arms, minted money (with his picture), issued stamps (with his picture) and license plates, selected a national anthem and mobilized a standing army, consisting of Lt. Antonello Lacala. He adopted a motto: Sub umbra sede (Sit in the shade).
I think we can all agree Prince Giorgio I was the coolest prince ever. Oh sure, Italy didn’t exactly recognize Seborgan sovereignty, nor did any other stable nation, and sure, Prince Giorgio’s subjects still paid Italian taxes and elected an Italian mayor, but if anything that only makes His Tremendousness more tremendous.
In 2006, one Princess Yasmine von Hohenstaufen Anjou Plantagenet, self-styled heir of the Holy Roman Emperors, tried to claim the throne of Seborga in order to return it to Italy, but nobody cared. Even a combined Disney-German-French-English princess just couldn’t compete with the awesomeness of Prince Giorgio.
He passed away at home on November 25th of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Since dedication to his people kept him from taking a wife — as he told People magazine in 1993, he loved all his female subjects equally — the succession is now in question. Can they find another prince so awesome? I doubt it. The standing army, Lt. Antonello Lacala, might have to institute some sort of coup.
Behold His Tremendousness surveying his wee domain in this story from a few years ago:
Here’s a lovely panorama of Seborga with the sea and the for real real Principality of Monaco in the distance: